Cnoc Sgriodain (Ben Klibreck) - 544m
Meall nan Con (Ben Klibreck) - 961m

Thursday 8th August 2013

Weather/Conditions: Nice summery day - clear, like two days before on Klibreck, but unlike my Munro Round finish on Ben Hope the day before!
Distance/Ascent/Time: 14.1km / 900m
Accompanying: Uncle Steve

First off, I appear to have lost my photos from this day. I certainly had them, because I saw at them when they were on the SD card. I have looked all over the place, and can't quite imagine I would have deleted them. Surely not! But then in the logistical massiveness of a summers worth of photos, they've perhaps ended up in the wrong place.

This also means I can't derive times, and I haven't the faintest idea at what times we were up and down in.

But it was a nice and sunny day out with Uncle Stephen anyway. The night before, he'd mentioned going up Ben Klibreck as it was likely he might not find himself this far north again. I said I'd quite like to join. He thought I was mad. I thought it a natural extension to what had come before.

I do have a lovely memory of walking out of the pub in the middle of the night, slightly pished, and seeing the black silhouette of Ben Loyal etched against a midnight glow in the northern sky. Very cool sight! Not sure if it was the night of the 6th, but in any case, what a place to be. It felt like a holiday now there was no pressure. So "on holiday", Uncle Steve and I went for Ben Klibreck, my second time in three days.

The weather was good, in fact probably a bit better again than the last couple of days. I knew the way, so no real issues or drama on ascent. The one abiding memory was the lack of pressure. I'd come to know the pressure well: for so long, the possibility of turning back from the summit meant consequences down the line. If I didn't do it now, I'd have to come back. This was only a problem in that, when constantly teetering on the edge of 'knackerdness', a no-summit day meant a wasted effort, and that was effort that would have to be repeated. I ended up only having two such days all summer, which in retrospect is probably a fair hit rate. It's interesting for me to analyse the reasons for them - basically a combination of bad route choices, a lack of options, being backed into a corner by circumstances...

But today on Ben Klibreck, there was none of that. It was a strange thought that I could just turn back whenever it suited me. Of course that wouldn't happen, but nonetheless, it was a novel and realistic idea for once. It completely changed my approach in the mid-term, and probably not in a productive way.

With the summit gained, we headed down and back to the cars. This was it really, the last gasp. It would be just a pleasant walk back over the pleasant Cnoc Sgriodain, and I was really getting in the car to go home. The true end of a journey, yes, but I couldn't wait to get back and have a bit more variation in life again.

I drove south down the long northern roads, then psychologically "popped" out into civilisation at Bonar Bridge. It was a rude awakening: traffic lights, queues, traffic... I was out of the "wild west" (Lorraine's phrase) now, and at first I wasn't entirely sure if I liked it. I'd spent three months hillwalking, the last month consistently in the north-west of Scotland with nothing but the mountains and the long winding roads... I could recall all the mountain ranges with great clarity, all remembered for their inherent character and trials. While the experiences of the past month or so had made everything south of the Great Glen recede into a mush of Grampian-plateau, all the north-west ranges were recalled clearly. I drove south with a sense of sadness that I wouldn't often see these ranges again. One home disappeared in my rear-view mirror to be replaced with another at the far end of the A82.

I didn't go home immediately: I stopped by Lorraine McCall's for a cuppa and a chat. It was nice to chat about this now in the aftermath. The last time I met her (Cluanie Inn), I'd been in a high pressure place! (Her words then ran true "if you've set yourself that goal, then aye, you'll do it". And I did, despite the doubt at the time...) From Lorraine's, I headed through Glen Convinth to Drumnadrochit and south to Fort William. It was nice to be heading home among all the mountains, but I couldn't wait to get home either.

I met James in Caol to get my cooking stuff back, then south again. (He had my camping pot, etc... though he dropped my spork on his own trip on Rannoch Moor!!) I really nailed it home, in the twilight over Rannoch Moor, and home to mum and dad sitting in the front room. Completely done now.

I'd stopped going up hills, but my body obviously hadn't stopped expecting it. I ended up going rock climbing most days to try and exhaust a body that was still in overdrive! I now had a documentary to make and a life to set up post-university, post-Munro Round.
Written: 2015-11-09